Child Malnutrition in Chad
Chad, a country located in Central Africa, faces one of the highest levels of child malnutrition worldwide. A meta-analysis of child malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa from 2006 to 2016 found that 39.9% of children in Chad suffered from stunting and 28.8% were underweight. Extreme weather events and conflict in the country exacerbate food insecurity, making it harder for many families to provide adequate, nutritious diets for their children. To help improve children’s health and reduce food insecurity, four recent initiatives are tackling child malnutrition in Chad.

Scaling Up Nutrition

Scaling Up Nutrition is an organization that collaborates with low- and middle-income countries’ governments to organize malnutrition prevention efforts. In 2017, SUN developed partnerships with five civil society organizations in Chad focused on improving nutrition. SUN has also established six local Civil Society Alliance offices across different provinces of the country. With SUN’s support, these organizations adopted nutrition as an integral part of their development plans. SUN has also trained and mobilized 35 radio presenters and journalists for nutrition communication, who continue to help raise awareness on malnutrition across the country.

Collaboration with UNICEF and the UK’s Department for International Development

Through its Department for International Development, the U.K. committed £4 million to a collaboration with UNICEF to reduce acute malnutrition in Chad in 2018 and 2019. Using this grant, UNICEF provided therapeutic milk, Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and essential drugs to 58,670 children across 20 provinces nationwide.

UNICEF also used the DFID grant to develop more sanitary and hygienic health centers, improving 30 facilities across the country. This development benefited an estimated 40,000 mothers and caregivers of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Zafaye West Health Center

A nutrition project that UNICEF and the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sponsored supports the Zafaye West Health Center. The project selected N’Djamena, where the health center is located, as a priority province in Chad for nutrition aid, because a 2019 survey detected a high prevalence of acute malnutrition in the region.

Community volunteers from the center travel door-to-door to reach out to mothers. They are encouraging them to visit the health center to check up on their children’s health and for educational campaigns. The campaigns educate mothers on the importance of balanced diets for their children and teach them nutrient-dense, affordable recipes to prepare. The nutrition project has saved 43,000 children, located within the six target provinces it serves, from acute malnutrition as of June 2021.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The World Food Program is an organization that provides food assistance across more than 80 countries worldwide. WFP helps provide nutritious meals to 120,000 school children in the Sahel, the region of Africa where Chad is located. The organization also feeds 15,000 children in the Lake Chad region through an emergency school meal program.

In addition, WFP helps prevent child malnutrition in Chad among six-month to two-year-olds by providing cash-based nutrition support to their families. This support provides families with more stable access to nutrient-dense foods.

Although many children in Chad currently face malnutrition, these four initiatives are making progress in eradicating this issue. With this support, child malnutrition in Chad could hopefully decline in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, its demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity, and frequent droughts have prevented these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because they do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. They will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. They installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, its energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources.  It should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Lebanon
Children living in Lebanon have been experiencing the full impact of the weakened economy in the country. Due to the Beirut explosion and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, child poverty has been on the rise in Lebanon. Child’s education, health and protection have become difficult to acquire.

The Deterioration of the Economy

Lebanon has struggled with its economy for a while due to its reliance on foreign imports and the limited exports coming from its country. As of 2021, Lebanon has failed to see economic growth, but the government is continuing to borrow money from other countries.

In addition, Lebanon’s government consists of 18 politicians of different religious denominations, such as Christian and Muslim. Because of this, Lebanon is susceptible to interference from other countries. As a result, Lebanon has become “one of the world’s largest debt burdens as a result of years of inefficiency, waste and corruption,” according to Reuters.

Moreover, in October 2019, the Lebanese pound began to lose its value due to the shortage of foreign currency in their commercial banks. This caused high-interest rates, leading to the emergence of a black market. Because there is an absence of taxes on the transactions and the government is not aware of the activity happening in the black market, this harms the economy.

While Lebanon was struggling economically, an explosion in Beirut worsened its situation. For instance, on August 4, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in agricultural fertilizers and bombs, exploded throughout the city of Beirut. Due to this, the air filled with dust, causing concern about the toxins people were consuming in the air.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed 140, wounded 5,000 and displaced 300,000. Of those 300,000, 100,000 of them were children, as UNICEF reported.

About Child Poverty in Lebanon

Due to the deterioration of the economy, Lebanon’s poverty rate has doubled from 42% to 82% between 2019 to 2021. As a result, many families cannot afford basic necessities for their children because of inflation, thus increasing child poverty in Lebanon. These families face shortages of food, water and electricity in their homes. Under these circumstances, many children have no choice but to skip meals, according to the OWP.

In addition, “34% of children were not able to receive necessary primary health care,” the OWP reported. In fact, many families need to access water through private providers at a cost because water from public works is insufficient to drink.

Child poverty in Lebanon leads to children living in conditions where they cannot grow and thrive. As economic inequality increases, children become susceptible to child marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Education in Lebanon

Additionally, many children do not have the option to attend school anymore because of the Beirut explosion. Unfortunately, the explosion damaged 163 schools, leaving children struggling to obtain an education through other means.

Due to the lack of technology and internet connectivity, many children cannot participate in remote learning activities. As families endure the hardships brought upon by the explosion, families are resorting to  “sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their daughters or selling their belongings,” said UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo.

To avoid child marriages and selling their belongings, children need to work. Many of them work in agriculture, metalworking or factories under inhumane conditions. Addressing child poverty in Lebanon, the government signed the ILO’s Convention on Child Labor, but it failed to become a law.

Save the Children

Lebanese children are receiving help from various organizations, such as Save the Children. Save the Children believes that children are the most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so it created an organization that focused on protecting them and giving them a chance at a new beginning.

Specifically, it is asking for donations to achieve its goals to improve the lives of Lebanese children. Some of the organization’s goals for child poverty in Lebanon are to increase the quality of education, restore schools and install water, sanitation and hygiene resources for the children to access.

Lastly, it hopes to protect Lebanese children from “psychological stress, neglect, violence, and abuse.” By doing this, Save the Children hopes to show the Lebanese children that they have the right to obtain these basic needs for a better future.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also been aiding children in Lebanon by providing Lebanese families with children with cash grants in the form of U.S. dollars, aiming to help 70,000 children in need. This is an effort to remove children from working and avoid skipping meals.

To add, UNICEF “is also providing mental health support and psychological first aid to children who are engaged in child labor, those who have experienced or are at risk of violence,” as stated on its website.

As a result, the children will have the ability to think for themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem. Similar to Save the Children, UNICEF has spent $6.9 million to help repair Lebanon’s water systems, aiding children’s health. The organization is continuing to reach more vulnerable children and their families, offering them support in any way it can.

With the increasing poverty rate in Lebanon, living conditions are becoming unbearable for many Lebanese children. Fortunately, Save the Children and UNICEF are assisting Lebanon, providing education measures, health services and protection for Lebanese children.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Builds Infrastructure
The Tanzanian government announced that it will begin construction on a $1.9 billion railway throughout the country to better increase the country’s infrastructure and connect communities. The country will pay for the railway from loans and the government said it will not raise or impose any taxes on the citizens to afford the railway. The railway is part of a larger railway line that will cover 1,219 km with the hopes of boosting Tanzanian trade with its neighbors. The section that the government announced will connect two towns, Makutopora and Tabora, in central Tanzania. Once the full 1,219 km railway line is complete, it will run from Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port, Makutopora, to a port city on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tabora, which Tanzania also shares with Uganda and Kenya. During the announcement of the project, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan stated that the line will be a priority because of its importance in connecting the country to its neighbors.  The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure will help bridge the divided country.

Earlier Railway Construction

In January 2021, the Tanzanian government announced a different railway line that would be built in the country using Chinese companies. The announcement, which occurred a year ago, lengthens Chinese involvement in Tanzania to now more than 10 years. In the announcement, the government of Tanzania said that the railroad will connect Mwanza to Dar es Salaam and span a distance of 341 kilometers from one side to the other. The announcement was part of a 2,561 kilometer of new railways through the country that will connect Dar es Salaam to the rest of the country.

According to Reuters, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction Limited won the contract worth 3.0617 trillion shillings or $1.32 billion to build the railway. The former has already won several other projects in Tanzania and is now working on the railway.

Economics

In recent years, the fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure increased its debts as more infrastructure projects are in the works across the country. In 2021, fiscal spending was $15.7 billion while donors only covered 8% of the amount. The government expects to see a 6.3% growth in the economy by 2023 from 2021.

In July 2020, Tanzania was upgraded from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country and the government has hopes of being a middle-income country by 2030. To reach this goal the government of Tanzania is working to develop its infrastructure, energy, and agriculture sectors to grow its economy and provide more opportunities for exports.

Along with this, the private sector is working to expand mining in a country that has faced underinvestment in the past. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzania was not as badly affected as its neighbors mostly affecting its travel and tourism sector of the economy.

Extreme Poverty

It is estimated that the percentage of people in extreme poverty in Tanzania increased from 49.3% to 50.4% from 2019 to 2020 and 1 million Tanzanians have fallen into that group in 2020 alone.

Before this time and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was experiencing rather low poverty rates based on the national poverty line according to data from the World Bank with 26.4% of the population living in poverty. An overwhelming majority of the urban population at 71% falls under the non-poor category while only 42% of the rural population falls into the same category.

The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure could benefit future generations as they grow up and improve Tanzania’s ability to make sure it can take care of its citizenry and provide a reliable source of transportation and movement of people and goods throughout the country.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Health Insurance in Morocco
By the end of 2021, health insurance in Morocco covered 11 million citizens. With the final count of covered citizens, the Moroccan government announced its expansion of health insurance to unconsidered sector workers. The number of protected citizens will grow in 2022 as proposals are under review to expand health insurance to uncovered workers, such as artisans, taxi drivers, farmers and more.

Morocco’s Health Insurance System

Morocco’s health insurance system is a mixture of government-run and privately owned insurance businesses. Most in Morocco have coverage through the primary source of health insurance. This is the Mandatory Health Insurance, L’Assurance Maladie Obligatoire (AMO).

Morocco implemented its first health care policy in 1959 and established free health services in the public sector. After 1959, the Moroccan health care system went through various changes. However, in 2005, it established and stabilized with the implementation of new programs to regulate and differentiate between the private and public health insurance systems.

In 2005, the Moroccan government created a mandatory, payroll-based health insurance plan that increased coverage from 16% of the Moroccan population to 30%. The payroll-based system is the AMO. The AMO covers the costs of general medicine and medical and surgical specialties, pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care, laboratory tests, radiology and medical imaging, optical care, oral health treatment and paramedics.

The Regime d’Assistance Medicale (RAMED)

The second insurance policy that Morocco implemented is the Regime d’Assistance Medicale (RAMED). RAMED is a public, government-financed program to fund insurance for those living in poverty and without the income needed to access the AMO.

The private insurance sector, which people often choose simply due to availability, is a system based on a fee-for-service policy. For whatever the service may be, private insurance requires the individual to pay a minimum of 20% of the fees due. However, fees sometimes range as high as 50%.

Morocco’s health insurance system guarantees free care to anyone. However, it is specifically free for anyone living in poverty at any clinic that Morocco’s government runs, as long as the clinics obtain a certificat d’indigence. Thankfully, the poverty rate in Morocco is as low as 3.6%. However, health care remains concentrated in the cities leaving the rural population without easy access to health care.

The rural population often remains uncovered and without the funds to be a part of the private insurance operations. The impending health insurance expansion promises to cover the rural workers. This will ease the economic burden of health insurance from their income.

Impending Expansion of the System

The expansion to cover more workers is not the first one the government has made since 2019. In 2020, the Moroccan government expanded its health insurance system to cover all costs, for every citizen, for COVID-19 treatment. The treatment coverage is available through the AMO.

Morocco’s health insurance system will expand pending the implementation of six drafted policy proposals. The overarching plan for Morocco’s health insurance system is to generalize all health insurance for uncovered workers. The first step in this plan is the creation of coverage beginning with the farmers in the outlying reaches of Morocco, the taxi drivers in the cities and the artisans spread around the country.

The Need for Health Insurance in Rural Communities in Morocco

Morocco’s rural and farming areas are often unconsidered, with doctors and clinics needing to open in said rural areas. The average salary of a Moroccan farmer is 11,700 Moroccan Dirham (MAD) per month, which translates to slightly more than $1,200.

Unfortunately, since the AMO did not cover the farmers, the farmers were often unable to afford private insurance due to having little income to spare. Therefore, with the flexibility of the cost of services due, the farmers could not risk paying anything that might exceed their income.

The Single Professional Contribution System (SPC)

The farmers are only one of the groups that will benefit from the expanded insurance availability. The Moroccan health insurance system’s expansion also covers artisans, who are part of the Single Professional Contribution system (SPC). The SPC allows workers reliant on a flat rate of income to pay fixed taxes and receive health insurance under the new expansion.

The workers who are part of the SPC do not have high incomes and often live on less than the living minimum wage. Much like the farmers, the AMO would not consider them, leaving them unable to afford the private insurance system.

The Moroccan health insurance system’s expansion allows access to basic health care that many could not access before. The government is increasing the annual amount spent on health care as well. The private and public systems will receive additional funding to hire more doctors. Hopefully, more clinics will open in the rural areas to help these newly insured farmers and rural dwellers.

The Moroccan health insurance system will help both the individual and the public. Expanded health insurance could reduce debt, both health-related and non-health-related. It could permit more opportunities to spend money in the local economy.

Increased economic flow can increase income and wages for all business sectors, including the lower-paid individuals, like the farmers. It can also decrease the poverty rate and the number of individuals at risk of poverty.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Pixabay

Classroom AfricaThe African Wildlife Foundation created a program in 2013 called Classroom Africa “to provide rural communities access to a quality primary school education” along with “a strong incentive to engage in conservation.” The main aim of Classroom Africa is “to foster the link between education and conservation, ensuring a stronger future for Africa’s children and its wildlife.” Operating in several African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the program empowers underprivileged children by providing them with education and opens opportunities for them to pursue careers as conservationists. Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa can uplift low-income children while also protecting the environment.

Primary Education in Developing Nations

Children in developing countries often lack access to primary education, especially in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa where Classroom Africa is based, more than 20% of children ages 6 to 11 are not receiving a classroom education, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Extreme gender disparities in school attendance also exist — females are more unlikely to never receive an education in comparison to males.

Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa provide educational opportunities to children in low-income areas and teach them about their local environment and sustainability. As a result, children are more likely to utilize and protect the natural resources around them, which can improve their quality of life in the long run. According to the World Bank, in 2018, sub-Saharan Africa held 66% of the world’s most extremely impoverished people. Wildlife conservation organizations can alleviate poverty by offering primary education opportunities that teach children practical skills and lessons about their local environment.

Greater Access to Opportunities

Wildlife education programs can set up low-income students for career opportunities later in life. With knowledge about wildlife conservation from a young age, children are more likely to grow up to pursue and succeed in careers as conservationists. In turn, these children serve their local communities and environments by improving sustainability and preserving natural resources. Children may also learn skills involving resource management and conservation, which have a multitude of social and economic benefits for low-income communities.

Additionally, wildlife education programs may provide teacher training programs, which create productive job opportunities for adults in the community. Wildlife education can alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities in developing countries and encouraging members of low-income communities to conserve and utilize valuable natural resources.

Quality of life is closely linked to environmental sustainability. Natural resources can yield an expansive range of socioeconomic benefits when people have the knowledge and power to conserve the environment. Wildlife education programs teach children from a young age how to use natural resources sustainably. One generation of educated conservationists can pave the way for future generations to reap the benefits of a sustainable environment.

Wildlife conservation can provide ample economic advantages that improve quality of life. For example, “safaris in Kenya generate close to $1 billion in annual revenue,” which would simply not be possible with a crumbling ecosystem and diminishing wildlife. A thriving ecotourism sector is able to create jobs for people in surrounding communities, providing an income that helps lift disadvantaged people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Wildlife education is particularly valuable in rural, low-income communities that are surrounded by nature but home to few people who have expertise in resource management and conservation. Children who partake in wildlife education programs can spread their knowledge to other community members, leading to a more sustainable community as a whole.

Classroom Africa shows that wildlife education benefits people in all stages of life. It teaches children valuable knowledge about resource conservation and sustainability and it opens career opportunities for young adults, especially in developing countries. Younger generations who partake in wildlife education programs can work alongside older ones to conserve their local environment and reap benefits while still prioritizing sustainability.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 in Tajikistan Tajikistan is a Central Asian country landlocked between Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Uzbekistan. It is among the most impoverished countries in the world, with 26.3% of its population living below the poverty line in 2019. This high poverty rate persists as a consequence of modern political instability and a civil war that erupted after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the Tajikistani Civil War, the national poverty rate has shrunk as the country recovered, but the impact of COVID-19 in Tajikistan has added to the financial stressors that many citizens face.

5 Facts About the Impact of COVID-19 in Tajikistan

  1. The Numbers: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan reported 17,493 COVID-19 cases from Jan. 3, 2020, to Jan. 21, 2022. From Jan. 18, 2021, to June 21, 2021, there were no reports of new cases in the nation. On Jan. 26, 2021, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon claimed that the country was “without COVID-19” in an address to parliament, asserting that the nation noted “no new cases” in the month of January. However, the Ministry of Health did in fact report new cases in January, a fact backed up by WHO data. The disease continued to spread for a few months longer, with the last new cases occurring on Sept. 13, 2021. Out of all the nation’s total confirmed cases, Tajikistan notes 125 deaths.
  2. Vaccines: In July 2021, Tajikistan made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all citizens of at least 18 years old. As of Jan. 2, 2022, Tajikistan has administered a total of 6.8 million doses, allowing for the full vaccination of roughly 3 million citizens, equating to 31.27% of Tajikistan’s overall population. In order to increase its overall vaccination rate, authorities aim “to expand their communication activities to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation” related to the COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the World Bank.
  3. Remittances: The influx of remittances to Tajikistan fell at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many citizens choose to leave the country to earn an income as migrant workers and send money back to their family members back in Tajikistan. In fact, “Tajikistan is one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world,” with this form of monetary exchange accounting for around 28% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. However, the value of remittances fell in the wake of COVID-19 to 26% in 2020. Economic crises and travel restrictions led to fewer remittances, especially due to the stringent regulations in Russia and other nearby countries where Tajikistani migrants often seek work. As a result, during the first half of 2020, remittances shrunk by close to 15% ($195 million) in comparison to the first half of 2019. In conjuncture with the other impacts of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, like the rising prices of agricultural goods, this fall in household income served to exacerbate poverty and heighten food insecurity in Tajikistan, with 33% of households reporting “reduced food consumption” as of August 2021.
  4. U.S. Foreign Aid: Responding to the negative effects of the pandemic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supplied significant amounts of aid to Tajikistan, including “1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine” in July 2021 and “325,260 doses of the Pfizer vaccine” in September 2021. In addition, USAID efforts include significant assistance to bolster Tajikistan’s health care systems and the capacity of its medical labs, public health outreach programs and community engagement. By March 2021, USAID had provided more than $10 million in aid to strengthen the country’s health care system and mitigate the financial impacts of COVID-19 in Tajikistan. Furthermore, as COVID-19 “disrupted import/export transport,” USAID has “launched an online freight portal” to help traders communicate and also created “a hotline to help traders and exporters locate the latest information about new import and transit procedures.”
  5. International Aid: Tajikistan also received support from other countries and international organizations. On Dec. 22, 2021, the World Bank approved a grant adding $25 million to the Tajikistan Emergency COVID-19 Project. The money will go to necessary medical resources, such as safety boxes, personal protective equipment, COVID-19 tests, vaccine cards and other supplies. The grant will also cover the cost of vaccine distribution and official communication efforts to combat medical misinformation.

Looking Forward

Although the impact of COVID-19 in Tajikistan will likely continue to affect the nation’s economy, the country has not noted any new COVID-19 cases since 2021. Currently, COVID-19 cases remain under control despite concerns over the newly emerging Omicron variant. International organizations are continuing their efforts to improve Tajikistan’s economic resilience and strengthen its health sector. As a result of diminishing cases and international assistance, experts predict that the economy will continue to grow throughout 2022 despite ongoing challenges.

– Lauren Sung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Iceland’s Tourism Industry
Iceland’s tourism industry is one of the country’s most dependable money-makers and job providers. Like many countries, Iceland’s tourism industry underwent severe economic losses and lacked new jobs and job security because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Bank of Iceland, Islandsbanki, released a report publishing its expectations for a significant resurgence in tourism for Iceland in 2022.

Tourism’s Importance to Jobs and Economic Growth in Iceland

Tourism provides 39% of Iceland’s annual export revenue and contributes about 10% to the country’s GDP. Iceland’s tourism industry accounts for 15% of the workforce. In 2017, 47% of Iceland’s newest jobs were in some way related to the tourism industry.

Iceland experienced a devastating financial crisis in 2008. Job availability dropped nationwide, the poverty rate increased and the GDP dropped dramatically in the following years. It took some forecasting, but the Icelandic government developed plans calling for the tourism industry to be the savior of the Icelandic economy.

To this end, the government established a brand new Tourist Control Centre, which coordinates the government’s work in tourism nationwide. It creates new typical tourist surveys and improved cooperation under the government’s four tourism ministries. The government also implemented efforts to track the most popular tourist destinations and receive input from tourists on how to improve their experiences at those destinations.

Iceland’s tourism is so popular that the government has had to devise limits on how long individuals can rent on Airbnb and on whom must receive limitations. Rental cars are similarly limited, with nearly 80% of tourists reported renting a car at least once during their visit to Iceland. The airfare to Iceland is one of the cheapest deals year-round.

The tourism industry has been primarily responsible for the economic boom that has occurred since 2012. The plans that the Icelandic government developed went into effect in Fiscal Year 2012 and involved the government’s expanding funding opportunities in the tourism industry.

Since the expansion of the tourism industry, the increase in job availability and economic growth, Iceland has made great strides in keeping the poverty rate low and the population of those at-risk of poverty lower than what was possible pre-2012.

Impact of COVID-19 on Iceland’s Tourism Industry

Iceland has the lowest poverty rate in the world, but the COVID-19 pandemic put this at risk. The international average for a country’s poverty rate is 11%, but Iceland has the world beat. The country’s poverty rate is at 4.9% and has been dropping since the expansion of the tourism industry.

Furthermore, there were an estimated 36 Icelandic citizens for every 1,000 who were at risk of falling into poverty in 2008, at the beginning of the economic crisis. Since then, the number rose briefly above 40 individuals then rose and fell for several years, but distinctly dropped in 2014. This coincided with the beginning of the full establishment and implementation of Iceland’s expanded tourism industry.

The pandemic’s impact on tourism left the country with another drop in jobs and an economic dip. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iceland experienced a 10-month long halt in tourism. Iceland’s GDP dropped from $24 billion to $19 billion in one year largely because of the loss of tourism between 2019 and 2020, according to Data Commons.

Expected Resurgence in Iceland’s Tourism

As soon as it became feasibly safe, Iceland reopened its borders to tourists with clear instructions. First, it allowed tourists to travel to the country as long as they isolated themselves for 14 days prior to their trip and were able to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Iceland. Since then, Iceland has allowed its visitors to arrive without those other restrictions as long as the tourists are fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus.

The increase in Iceland’s tourism is not unprecedented. In 2018, the increase in tourism was 5.4% and in 2017, it was 24.1%. Icelandair, the main airline for travel to Iceland, has its own plan for balancing safety and getting as many tourists to Iceland as feasible in the works.

Iceland’s central bank, Islandsbaski is expecting a minimum of 1 million tourists to Iceland, but as many as 1.3 million may come. In November 2021, there were a meager 75,000 tourists for the entire month. However, this is more than 20 times the final tally for tourists for that month in the preceding year.

Even though tourism paused for the better part of a year, the tourism industry is ready and raring to go. Despite the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Icelandic tourism industry will reopen in 2022 as much as possible and the economic boost to come from it is invaluable.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small, tropical country located on the west coast of Africa. Despite its six-month “wet season,” characterized by 90% humidity and torrential rainfall, Sierra Leone struggles to provide quality drinking water to its citizens. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 98% of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean drinking water and that “most households lack basic sanitation.” Fortunately, there are many organizations, both internal and external, that are seeking to combat poor water quality in Sierra Leone. These organizations utilize five strategies to broaden access to clean water.

5 Strategies to Broaden Access to Clean Water

  1. Installing Wells. Many of the wells in Sierra Leone are dug by hand and are unable to reach underground aquifers where clean water is stored. For this reason, many nonprofit organizations, such as World Hope, Living Water and Sierra Leone Rising, are prioritizing efforts to install deeper wells in both urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone. Generally, the installation of a quality, long-lasting well costs about $11,000. To minimize the cost of developing these much-needed wells, World Hope and Sierra Leone Rising are teaming up, splitting the cost of building 20 wells. Between 2017 and 2018, World Hope drilled 45 wells in Sierra Leone and its neighboring country, Liberia. When people have local access to clean water wells, they are less prone to diseases and do not have to waste as much productive time seeking out potable water.
  2. Monitoring Local Water Sources. Many of the water sources in Sierra Leone are polluted and spread diseases to the people who drink from them. This is why the CDC is partnering with public health officials in Sierra Leone to better monitor water quality and respond to waterborne disease outbreaks. The CDC began guiding “public health staff” in 2018, successfully training 50 employees “to detect and respond to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.” Those 50 staff members went on to teach 500 other community members the same methods of water testing. As a result of these training sessions, new job opportunities are arising, the spread of waterborne illness is decreasing and water quality in Sierra Leone is improving nationwide.
  3. Expanding the Sanitation Sector. The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a foreign aid agency based out of the United States, working in Sierra Leone since 2015 in an effort to improve the country’s poor water quality. The program helped draft the first digital map of the water distribution system in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which will allow water companies to “better assess the water system’s performance” and “more efficiently address service delivery problems,” ultimately providing more Sierra Leoneans with access to clean, safe water. The nation also recently drafted blueprints to expand all water and sanitation services in urban areas and neighboring towns by 2023, aiming to reach all cities by 2030. With the expansion of the sanitation sector, improved water quality in Sierra Leone is inevitable.
  4. Developing Rainfall Collection Systems. During Sierra Leone’s six-month wet season, the country experiences torrential rains and flooding. However, “from November to April,” the country experiences a harsh dry season during which droughts and water shortages are commonplace. This is why the Freetown city mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, campaigned in 2021 to install “more than 160 rainwater harvesting systems” in rural areas outside of the capital. Each rainwater harvesting system has the capacity to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 liters of water, which means that citizens can harness excess water during the rainy season to use during the dry season droughts.
  5. Installing Public Latrines and Handwashing Stations. In an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is also working to install easily accessible latrines and handwashing stations throughout the city of Freetown. So far, she has built handwashing kiosks in 23 different marketplaces and has hired citizens to monitor each station and use a megaphone to remind shoppers of the importance of washing their hands. Many of the natural water sources in Sierra Leone are contaminated due to poor waste management and a lack of access to functional latrines. To help improve the water quality in Sierra Leone, the mayor is installing public bathrooms in addition to the handwashing kiosks. These public restrooms will help contain liquid and solid waste so that it does not seep into the nation’s water supply, significantly reducing the spread of disease.

Looking Ahead

Historically, Sierra Leone has faced many obstacles, including civil war, extreme seasonal weather and devastating outbreaks of the Ebola virus and COVID-19. However, the small African nation is taking great measures to improve the water quality in Sierra Leone so that its citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water all year round.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr